Head and Neck Cancers

  • Overview


    Head and neck cancer occurs when malignant tumours grow in any of the tissue in the head or neck. Not all tumours in the head and neck are malignant, but benign and malignant tumours are treated in a similar way.

    • Mouth or oral cancer – includes cancer that starts anywhere in the mouth, such as the lips, inside cheeks, the front two-thirds of the tongue and the gums.
    • Salivary gland cancer – can occur in any of the paired major glands in front of the ears or beneath the jaw or tongue.
    • Pharyngeal cancer – cancers in the pharynx (throat): nasopharyngeal, oropharyngeal and hypopharyngeal cancers.
    • Laryngeal cancer – starts in the larynx (voice box).
    • Nasal cancer or paranasal sinus cancer – includes cancers starting in the nose, nasal cavity or the sinuses.

    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/697/b1000/head-and-neck-cancer-16/what-are-head-and-neck-cancers/?pp=32646&cc=9561&&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


    Symptoms


    Oral Cancer

    • a white patch on your gums, tongue or lining of your mouth
    • a red patch on your gums, tongue or lining of your mouth
    • a change in your speech or difficulty pronouncing words
    • difficulty swallowing food, or food that gets ‘stuck’
    • a lump in the neck
    • loose teeth or dentures that no longer fit well

    Pharyngeal cancer symptoms

    • throat pain
    • a persistent sore throat or cough
    • coughing up bloody phlegm
    • difficulty swallowing
    • a change in the sound of your voice, or hoarseness
    • a feeling that your air supply is blocked
    • dull pain around your breastbone
    • a lump in the neck
    • an earache

    Laryngeal cancer symptoms

    • swelling in the neck or throat
    • a change in the sound of your voice, or hoarseness
    • a lump in the neck
    • difficulty swallowing
    • a persistent sore throat

    Nasal and para nasal symptoms

    • a persistent blocked nose, particularly in one nostril
    • a decreased sense of smell
    • nosebleeds
    • mucus drainage in the back of your nose or throat
    • frequent headaches or a feeling of sinus pressure
    • a bulging or watery eye
    • complete or partial loss of your eyesight
    • double vision
    • a lump on your face, or in your nose or mouth
    • loose or painful teeth
    • pressure or pain in your ears

    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/73775/b1000/head-and-neck-cancer-16/head-and-neck-cancer-symptoms/?pp=33156&cc=9541&&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


    Diagnosis


    If you have symptoms that could be due to a head or neck cancer, your general practitioner (GP) can do initial tests but will then refer you to a specialist for further tests. Depending on your symptoms, you may have one or more of the following tests, which include physical and visual examinations, tissue sampling (biopsy) and imaging tests. You will probably also have blood tests.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/1849/cancer-information/cancer-diagnosis-and-symptoms/cancerdiagnosis/head-and-neck-cancer-diagnosis/?pp=33156&cc=3309&&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


  • Surgery for head and neck cancers


    The aim of surgery is to remove cancerous tissue and preserve the functions of the head and neck, such as breathing, swallowing and speech, as much as possible. There are different ways surgeons can operate.

    The surgeons may only need to cut out a small area, which will include an area of healthy tissue around the tumour called a margin. If the operation is small, the healing is usually fast, with few long-term side effects.

    For more advanced cancer, an operation will be more extensive and will cause longer-lasting or permanent side effects.

    Your doctors will discuss whether surgery is an option for you, and the best type of operation for you.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/77652/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/surgery-for-head-and-neck-cancers/?pp=33158&cc=254&&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


    Radiotherapy for head and neck cancers


    Radiotherapy is the use of high-energy x-rays or electrons to kill or damage cancer cells so they can no longer grow and multiply. It can be used alone or with other treatment. Radiotherapy can be given in different ways, either externally or internally.

    Before radiotherapy begins, the staff will see you to plan the treatment. You will have scans and you may need to be fitted for a mask to wear so that the same location is treated at each session. You will wear the mask for up to an hour in the planning session, but only for 5-40 minutes during treatment, depending on the location of the cancer. You can see and breathe through the mask.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/77653/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/radiotherapy-for-head-and-neck-cancers/?pp=33158&cc=254&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


    Chemotherapy for head and neck cancers


    Chemotherapy is the treatment of cancer with anti-cancer (cytotoxic) drugs and newer “˜targeted’ agents. The aim of chemotherapy is to kill cancer cells while doing the least possible damage to healthy cells. It can be given for different reasons:

    • It is often used with radiotherapy – this is called chemoradiation, where the drug increases the effects of the radiotherapy.
    • It may be given to try to shrink a tumour before surgery or radiotherapy. This is called neoadjuvant chemotherapy.
      Chemotherapy can be given after surgery, along with radiotherapy, to reduce the chances of the cancer coming back.
    • It can also be given as a palliative treatment for symptom management. This aims to reduce pain or discomfort by stopping the cancer from growing and pressing on nerves and other tissue. See the next page for more information.

    You will probably receive chemotherapy by injection into a vein (intravenously) at treatment sessions over several weeks.


    Cancer Council NSW

    Information extracted from the Cancer Council NSW website and reproduced with permission.

    http://www.cancercouncil.com.au/77654/cancer-information/cancer-treatment/types-of-treatment/chemotherapy-for-head-and-neck-cancers/?pp=33158&cc=254&ct=8

    © Cancer Council NSW 2012


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